A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein
A Marxist reading of the novel shows that this work is an active agent exposing and criticizing society's oppressive economic and ideological systems. The fear played upon in this work is in actuality a fear of revolution. Many generations experience the horror and terror of this thought evoking novel in an entirely different light. What was once a so called transgression in the 19th century is widely accepted amongst the people of the 21st century. Embedded in the text are several allegories which interrogate and ridicule the key beliefs and motivations of society. This essay will explore the ways in which Shelley presents the mind-set of human society and civilisation in one of the earliest science fiction novels. The main plot of the novel reflects in historical context of oppression as there were great social upheavals at the time it was written. The English, French and Haitian revolution all played upon Shelley’s conscience with her abolitionist parents having a large influence upon these views. Shelley’s work plays on society’s fear of creating monsters that go out of control and create revolutions, this can been seen with the characterisation of the creature who is a symbol for the oppressed people. The creature is composed of different body parts, this is similar to the proletariat in that it “is recruited from all classes of the population”; a repulsive idea to humanity, however victor does not consider the wellbeing of the creature but merely considers his own gain of respect and power in the scientific community. Similarly the citizens of 19th century Britain and France are controlled by authoritative figures whose higher intentions are for self-gain. In terms of Marxism, the creature represents the proletariats who are physically bigger and stronger ; “As the minuteness of the parts formed a great hindrance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of a gigantic stature; that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionally large”. Victor could represent the bourgeoisie who are weak but wealthy and educated. This is comparable to aspects of working and upper class society in 18th and 19th century Europe. The creature with his grosse physical superiorities ensures Victor is reminded “thou hast made me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine; my joints more supple”, this mirrors the bourgeois perception of life as they do not need the luxuries and comforts of the upper-class, just somewhere to take shelter and enough food to be able to function. This very composition reflects the labourers who had superior strength by number; it insinuates the idea of working class rising above the upper-class and over throwing the whole capitalist system. This becomes noticeable when the creature states “You are my creator, but I am your master”, here the creature is clearly aware of his social class but also realises his physical strength can work against his creator. Furthermore, another use of the creature’s characterisation is to depict sympathy in the reader. The creature begins his life with innocent intensions much like a child who is dependent on its creator; however after experiencing cruel and malicious treatment from humans, he tragically becomes violent. It can be argued that the creatures transmission to a monster is not his fault as under the social learning perspective, Banduras Bobo doll experiment explains that when a child witnesses an authoritative and influential figure behaving maliciously they are most likely to copy the behaviour. Similarly, this rebellion reflects the way the working class began the French revolution with good intentions, hope and desperation but grossly transformed into the reign of terror. The working classes intentions were simply to other throw the capitalist system just as the creatures early intentions were simply to fight for a place in society: “Believe me, Frankenstein: I was...
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